Inside a rollicking gym with an auditory assault to rival a 747 jet engine, The Master’s College stayed close enough to visiting Biola to keep a standing-room-only crowd roaring but not close enough to salvage a victory.
Biola won the NAIA District 3 men’s basketball game, 77-73, Thursday night, and the performance of the Eagles’ 6-foot-10 Yugoslavian center, Emilio Kovacic, left Master’s players wishing that all Yugos were compacts.
The big Eagle led all scorers with 23 points and put up an iron curtain in the key with seven blocked shots.
Kovacic, a transfer from Arizona State who became eligible at Christmastime, made nine of 12 field-goal attempts. He dominated offensively in the first half with 16 points and defensively in the second with five blocked shots.
“He gives us that dimension that we (didn’t) have and that helped us tonight, not just blocking shots but changing shots,” Biola Coach Dave Holmquist said.
Stuart Epperson and Tom Bruner led Master’s (13-7, 6-2 in district play) with 22 and 12 points, respectively.
Biola led, 62-46, with 7 minutes 5 seconds to play, but Master’s mounted a comeback to cut the final margin to four points.
However, after beating nemesis Biola three times last season to improve its record in the series to 6-40, Master’s once again was undone by a Dave Holmquist team.
Holmquist sat out last season, but he returned to preserve his undefeated record against Master’s in 11 seasons as Biola coach.
Biola (16-6, 6-3) scored five consecutive points to take a 34-30 lead into the locker room after a high-energy but low-scoring first half.
Biola stretched the lead to 48-36 one-third of the way through the second half and was ahead 60-44 at the 8:09 mark.
Master’s put together a 12-4 run to close the score to 64-56 with 3:34 remaining, and the teams traded baskets until Epperson made two three-point baskets in the final 22 seconds to pull Master’s as close as it had been since the beginning of the second half.
Epperson scored 20 of his 22 points in the last 5 1/2 minutes to help keep Master’s in the game. Joe John Bryant scored nine points and had a team-high eight rebounds for Master’s. Doug Newby and Rodney Camper each scored 16 points for Biola.
Biola shot 53% from the field and Master’s was frustrated by 53% free-throw shooting, making only nine of 17 from the line.